Irreligion in New Zealand
Irreligion —the absence of religious belief or affiliation— is an increasing trend in New Zealand. Although New Zealand has no established religion, Christianity has been the majority religious affiliation since European settlement in the 19th century. The trend toward irreligion may indicate increasing secularisation as well as a rise in non-institutional spiritual belief.
Statistics New Zealand gathers information on religious affiliation in the five-yearly census. Completing a census form is compulsory by law for every person in New Zealand on census night but respondents are able to object to answering the question of religious affiliation, and around 6% do object. The trend shows an increasing proportion of residents in New Zealand declaring no religious affiliation. In the 1991 census, 20.2% were in this category. The proportion increased steadily to 34.7% in the 2006 census.[dated info] Furthermore, 43% of young people aged between 0–14 years claimed no religion, compared to 11.8% of people aged over 65 years.
There is significant debate among sociologists about the interpretation of this trend in census data. The increase in those indicating 'no religion' is often cited in support of the secularisation thesis, although more detailed research of this group has thrown this assumption into question. An alternative theory is that the data indicates a decline in institutional religious affiliation rather than simply a decrease in spiritual belief. A 1985 survey showed that around one-quarter of those answering 'no religion' may believe in a God.
The International Social Survey Programme was conducted in New Zealand by Massey University in 2008. It received mail-responses from around one thousand New Zealanders above the age of 18, surveying issues of religious belief and practice. The results of this survey indicated that 72% of the population believe in God or a higher power, 15% are agnostic, and 13% are atheist (with a 3% margin of error).
According to a report by the American Physical Society, religion may die out in New Zealand and eight other Western world countries. Associate Professor of History at Massey University Peter Lineham, predicts those who have no religious affiliation will have reached over 50% by the next census.
According to journalist and commentator Ian Harris, Christians could drop below 50% for the first time since the 1840s by the 2013 census.
If current trends persist, those stating no religion will outnumber those who state a religious affiliation by the 2026 census.
Irreligion in society
The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and the Humanist Society of New Zealand promote a secular view of life without reference to supernatural agencies as one of its aims.
A campaign to create advertisements similar to the Atheist Bus Campaign in the United Kingdom began a fund-raising drive on 10 December 2009, and reached its initial target of $10,000 in donations within 48 hours, making it one of the most successful atheist campaigns of all time.
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- Table 28, 2006 Census Data - QuickStats About Culture and Identity - Tables.
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- "QuickStats About Culture and Identity". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- Olson, William. H. (2000). The secularization debate. Rowman & Littlefield.
- Hout, M; Fischer, CS (2002). "Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Politics and Generations". American Sociological Review 67 (2): 183. doi:10.2307/3088891.
- Ward, Kevin (2004). "'No Longer Believing' -or- 'Believing without Belonging'". In Stenhouse, John. The Future of Christianity: Historical, Sociological, Political and Theological Perspectives from New Zealand. Adelaide: AFT Press. pp. 64–66.
- "Who is Secular". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
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- "Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says". BBC. March 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation". American Physical Society. January 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "Religion set for extinction in NZ, says US study". The New Zealand Herald. March 22, 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "Study shows religion set for extinction". American Physical Society. March 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- Ian Harris (January 11, 2013). "Census results show changing religious views". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Carl Walrond (December 4, 2012). "Atheism and secularism". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- Burns, Kelly (11 December 2009). "'There's probably no God' coming to a bus near you". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- NZ Atheist Bus Campaign Blog $10,000 and growing fast
- Statistics New Zealand - Religion page